Monticello chooses new company to run municipal broadbandby Conrad Wilson, Minnesota Public Radio
MONTICELLO, Minn. — A new company will run a financially struggling, municipally-owned broadband network, the city of Monticello decided Monday evening.
The Monticello City Council voted unanimously to bring in a new company called Gigabit Squared. The Cleveland Heights-based innovation and technology company will conduct a 90-day study of the publicly-owned broadband network and will run it for at least the next six months.
The council vote follows an announcement last week that the city stopped making payments on $26 million in bonds used to build its network.
The city of Monticello is one of the first in the state to build its own network and has served as a model for other communities that want to improve their Internet connectivity and speed. However, the Monticello's city-owned broadband network has been operating at a loss.
"There's a good opportunity to reconfigure the debt so that it can be a viable entity," said Jeff O'Neill, the Monticello city administrator.
"The city has a chance to continue with the route it's been on to provide fiber net services to the community and to come up with a plan to allow it to not only create choice in the marketplace, but also be financially viable and to have costs meet expenses," O'Neill said.
A Winona-based company called Hiawatha Broadband Communications operated the Monticello's network. But the company announced earlier this month its partnership with the city was ending.
Before Monday evening's city council meeting, O'Neill said Monticello is looking for investments, new partners and ways to grow the system.
"We do have a plan going forward," he said.
"We're looking at bringing on an interim manager to evaluate the system where it's at and to develop a plan for moving forward and reshaping the system from a revenue and expense standpoint," O'Neill said.